Winter On Television

I guess the thing I remember most about winter is hockey on television. Looking at the ice on the television, the red and blue stripes, the white boards, the television screen a boundary between me and the ice — there it was — ice on television and I wasn’t cold — it seemed a great thing — television that is — that was when I realized what a great thing television was.

I knew the ice was still cold but the arena was warm and the players didn’t get really cold like I did at 7 o’clock in the morning with magazines for shin guards under my frozen corduroys caked with ice shit and hopeless protection against crazily struck frozen black pucks that shattered my kneecap into real pain — let me tell you!

The ice was cool against my cheek and seemed a safer thing to concentrate on rather than the burning kneecap squirming into the ice — which is an adequate analysis of winter’s paradox — winter always leads to an analysis of extremes — like licking the fence post on a dare to see how stupid you could be and the first frozen shock of awareness that stupidity can transcend expectations and someone running for a kettle of hot water and your frozen tongue saying over and over “Now, everyone will know I am an idiot.”

Hockey was like that, too. I could never see the puck on television — I had a good idea where it was unless all the players were milling around and then I couldn’t tell where the puck was ’cause I always watched which way the players were facing and then I figured — there goes the puck! It was how I figured it out — I mean for all I knew there wasn’t even a puck — it could have been an act of faith and I would not have known. Even now.

I don’t care — I mean I didn’t even like hockey on television, ’cause I didn’t understand it and I liked it even less in real life ’cause it was cold and it hurt — that’s when I realized what a great invention television was — everyone knew what was going on because the announcer told you what was going on, so I didn’t have to admit, “I can’t tell what is going on.”

If you licked the screen your tongue didn’t stick to the screen even if there was snow on the television — all they did was flash a sign that read “Sorry, We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties.” Television was a big pill we swallowed for safety; it’s too bad the television didn’t swallow us, ’cause then we’d be safe and if it was winter we could just change the channel and go somewhere else. Television would be the perfect snow suit — if it would have us.

But hockey really pulled it all together — the print-out of the score superimposed on the action long before anyone thought of special effects and the computer was just science-fiction and the idea of coaches watching the game on television way up in the rafters rather than being down by the ice would have been like ripping up free gold tickets ’cause you didn’t want to miss your favourite television show — hockey was timeless and modern and it wasn’t affected by the television — it’s like hockey just happened, as if the cameras weren’t there. Hockey was a natural — even if you didn’t like hockey you had to like it.

And we would rush through Saturday dinner so we could watch when Hockey Night in Canada came on, and usually television has all these pictures of eating — mouths opening and closing with obvious satisfaction, hands shoving it all in — zoom in and enjoy a close-up of soggy muck goin’ down the old hatch — but it was if all that racing through dinner emptied the television of any thought of food and all that was left was the Esso tiger and an idea of power, “Put a Tiger in Your Tank” — that said it all right there, it put it all together plain to see — Put a Tiger in Your Tank/ Hockey Night in Canada.

Hockey on television really made sense of everything.

 

Hockey is sin

Hockey is the sport of sinners.
Games are decided by penalties —
hypocrisy made flesh, the world made real.

Hockey is a game of mayhem and violence
(much like life) which (purports) to control
itself (much like nations proclaim.) So, penalties
become exercises in proportion, matters of spin
and perception. Because the effect of penalties
is constant — the loss of one warrior can lead to defeat.
But how do you manage warriors? There lies=
the hypocrisy — we want to profit by sin, then
punish it, and then determine the only possible
verdict that will do — you lose.

To vicariously participate in the rout,
be part of its apprehension, and pass swift
judgment — that is true sport and that is why
hockey is sin, because everyone loves to judge
and hanging is just too quick.

 

To Carlos and Dalia Gomez

I watch Carlos and Dalia Gomez
watch their son Scott play
in the Stanley Cup Finals.
I know their names because
they’re written on the screen.
We millions watch them,
listen to announcers tell us
what we don’t need to be told—
we can see.

No one really knows their story,
but there they are—
their son playing in the Stanley Cup
and there is nowhere, right now,
they would rather be.

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